Evolutionism describes the belief in the evolution of organisms. Its exact meaning has changed over time as the study of evolution has progressed. In the 19th century, it was used to describe the belief that organisms deliberately improved themselves through progressive inherited change (orthogenesis). The teleological belief went on to include cultural evolution and social evolution. In the 1970s the term Neo-Evolutionism was used to describe the idea "that human beings sought to preserve a familiar style of life unless change was forced on them by factors that were beyond their control".
The term is also sometimes used by the creationist movement to describe adherence to the scientific consensus on evolution as equivalent to a secular religion. The term is very seldom used within the scientific community, since the scientific position on evolution is accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists. Because evolutionary biology is the default scientific position, it is assumed that "scientists" or "biologists" are "evolutionists" unless specifically noted otherwise. In the creation–evolution controversy, creationists often call those who accept the validity of the modern evolutionary synthesis "evolutionists" and the theory itself "evolutionism".
Before its use to describe biological evolution, the term "evolution" was originally used to refer to any orderly sequence of events with the outcome somehow contained at the start. The first five editions of Darwin's in Origin of Species used the word "evolved", but the word "evolution" was only used in its sixth edition in 1872. By then, Herbert Spencer had developed the concept theory that organisms strive to evolve due to an internal "driving force" (orthogenesis) in 1862. Edward B. Tylor and Lewis H Morgan brought the term "evolution" to anthropology though they tended toward the older pre-Spencerian definition helping to form the concept of unilineal (social) evolution used during the later part of what Trigger calls the Antiquarianism-Imperial Synthesis period (c1770-c1900). The term evolutionism subsequently came to be used for the now discredited theory that evolution contained a deliberate component, rather than the selection of beneficial traits from random variation by differential survival.
However, the term has been used by creationists in discussing the creation-evolution controversy. For example, the Institute for Creation Research, in order to imply placement of evolution in the category of 'religions', including atheism, fascism, humanism and occultism, commonly uses the words evolutionism and evolutionist to describe the consensus of mainstream science and the scientists subscribing to it, thus implying through language that the issue is a matter of religious belief. The BioLogos Foundation, an organization that promotes the idea of theistic evolution, uses the term "evolutionism" to describe "the atheistic worldview that so often accompanies the acceptance of biological evolution in public discourse." It views this as a subset of scientism.
a widely held 19c belief that organisms were intrinsically bound to improve themselves, that changes were progressive, and that acquired characters could be transmitted genetically. The belief was also extended to cultures and societies, and to living organisms.
In fact, true science supports the Biblical worldview... However, science does not support false religions (e.g. atheism, evolutionism, pantheism, humanism, etc.)
A major complaint of the Creationists, those who are committed to a Genesis-based story of origins, is that evolution--and Darwinism in particular--is more than just a scientific theory. They object that too often evolution operates as a kind of secular religion, pushing norms and proposals for proper (or, in their opinion, improper) action.
...from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved (italics not in original)
While BioLogos accepts evolution, it emphatically rejects evolutionism, the atheistic worldview that so often accompanies the acceptance of biological evolution in public discourse. Proponents of evolutionism believe every aspect of life will one day be explained with evolutionary theory. In this way it is a subset of scientism, the broader view that the only real truth is that which can be discovered by science. These positions are commonly held by materialists (also called philosophical naturalists) who deny the existence of the supernatural.
Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, FBA (born Alfred Reginald Brown; 17 January 1881 – 24 October 1955) was an English social anthropologist who developed the theory of structural functionalism and coadaptation.Arborescent
Arborescent (French: arborescent) is a term used by the French thinkers Deleuze and Guattari to characterize thinking marked by insistence on totalizing principles, binarism, and dualism. The term, first used in A Thousand Plateaus (1980) where it was opposed to the rhizome, comes from the way genealogy trees are drawn: unidirectional progress, with no possible retroactivity and continuous binary cuts (thus enforcing a dualist metaphysical conception, criticized by Deleuze). Rhizomes, on the contrary, mark a horizontal and non-hierarchical conception, where anything may be linked to anything else, with no respect whatsoever for specific species: rhizomes are heterogeneous links between things that have nothing to do between themselves (for example, Deleuze and Guattari linked together desire and machines to create the - most surprising - concept of desiring machines). Horizontal gene transfer is also an example of rhizomes, opposed to the arborescent evolutionism theory. Deleuze also criticizes the Chomsky hierarchy of formal languages, which he considers a perfect example of arborescent dualistic theory.Chinese Marxist philosophy
Chinese Marxist Philosophy is the philosophy of dialectical materialism that was introduced into China in the early 1900s and continues in the Chinese academia to the current day.
Marxist philosophy was initially imported into China between 1900 and 1930, in translations from German, Russian and Japanese. The Chinese translator of the Origin of Species, Ma Junwu, was also the first one who introduced Marxism into China. For Ma, evolutionism and Marxism are the secrets of social development. This was before the formal dialectical materialism of the Communist Party, in which many independent radical intellectuals embraced Marxism. Many of them would later join the Party. Chinese Dialectical Materialism began to be formalized during the 1930s, under the influence of Mitin's New Philosophy. In the late 1930s, Chairman Mao Zedong would begin to develop his own sinified version of Dialectical Materialism that was independent of the Soviet Philosophy. Maoist Dialectics remained the dominant paradigm into the 1970s, and most debates were on technical questions of dialectical ontology. In the 1980s the Dengist reforms led to a large-scale translation and influence of works of Western Marxism and Marxist Humanism.Creative Evolution (book)
Creative Evolution (French: L'Évolution créatrice) is a 1907 book by French philosopher Henri Bergson. Its English translation appeared in 1911. The book proposed a version of orthogenesis in place of Darwin's mechanism of evolution, suggesting that evolution is motivated by an élan vital, a "vital impetus" that can also be understood as humanity's natural creative impulse. The book was very popular in the early decades of the twentieth century.
The book also developed concepts of time (offered in Bergson's earlier work) which significantly influenced modernist writers and thinkers such as Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann. For example, Bergson's term "duration" refers to a more individual, subjective experience of time, as opposed to mathematical, objectively measurable "clock time." In Creative Evolution, Bergson suggests that the experience of time as "duration" can best be understood through intuition.
Harvard philosopher William James intended to write the introduction to the English translation of the book, but died in 1910 prior to its completion.Culturalism
In philosophy and sociology, culturalism (new humanism or Znaniecki's humanism) is the central importance of culture as an organizing force in human affairs. It was originally coined by the Polish-American philosopher and sociologist Florian Znaniecki in his book Cultural Reality (1919) in English and later translated into Polish as kulturalizm. Znaniecki had introduced a similar concept in earlier Polish language publications which he described as humanism (humanizm).Edward Burnett Tylor
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (2 October 1832 – 2 January 1917) was an English anthropologist, the founder of cultural anthropology.Tylor's ideas typify 19th-century cultural evolutionism. In his works Primitive Culture (1871) and Anthropology (1881), he defined the context of the scientific study of anthropology, based on the evolutionary theories of Charles Lyell. He believed that there was a functional basis for the development of society and religion, which he determined was universal. Tylor maintained that all societies passed through three basic stages of development: from savagery, through barbarism to civilization. Tylor is a founding figure of the science of social anthropology, and his scholarly works helped to build the discipline of anthropology in the nineteenth century. He believed that "research into the history and prehistory of man... could be used as a basis for the reform of British society."Tylor reintroduced the term animism (faith in the individual soul or anima of all things and natural manifestations) into common use.
He regarded animism as the first phase of development of religions.Henri J. M. Claessen
Henri Joannes Maria Claessen (born 1930, Wormerveer) is a cultural anthropologist specialized in the early state and Professor Emeritus in Social Anthropology at Leiden University, He is an honorary member of several scholarly institutions (Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde [Royal Institute for Languages and Anthropology of the Royal Academy of Sciences]); Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (University of Nijmegen); Honorary Lifetime Member of the IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences).Historical particularism
Historical particularism (coined by Marvin Harris in 1968) is widely considered the first American anthropological school of thought.
Closely associated with Franz Boas and the Boasian approach to anthropology, historical particularism rejected the cultural evolutionary model that had dominated anthropology until Boas. It argued that each society is a collective representation of its unique historical past. Boas rejected parallel evolutionism, the idea that all societies are on the same path and have reached their specific level of development the same way all other societies have. Instead, historical particularism showed that societies could reach the same level of cultural development through different paths.Boas suggested that diffusion, trade, corresponding environment, and historical accident may create similar cultural traits. Three traits, as suggested by Boas, are used to explain cultural customs: environmental conditions, psychological factors, and historical connections, history being the most important (hence the school's name).Critics of historical particularism argue that it is anti theoretical because it doesn't seek to make universal theories, applicable to all the world's cultures. Boas believed that theories would arise spontaneously once enough data was collected. This school of anthropological thought was the first to be uniquely American and Boas (his school of thought included) was, arguably, the most influential anthropological thinker in American history.Multilineal evolution
Multilineal evolution is a 20th-century social theory about the evolution of societies and cultures. It is composed of many competing theories by various sociologists and anthropologists. This theory has replaced the older 19th century set of theories of unilineal evolution.
When critique of classical social evolutionism became widely accepted, modern anthropological and sociological approaches have changed to reflect their responses to the critique of their predecessor. Modern theories are careful to avoid unsourced, ethnocentric speculation, comparisons, or value judgements; more or less regarding individual societies as existing within their own historical contexts. These conditions provided the context for new theories such as cultural relativism and multilineal evolution.
By the 1940s cultural anthropologists such as Leslie White and Julian Steward sought to revive an evolutionary model on a more scientific basis, and succeeded in establishing an approach known as the neoevolutionism. White rejected the opposition between "primitive" and "modern" societies but did argue that societies could be distinguished based on the amount of energy they harnessed, and that increased energy allowed for greater social differentiation. Steward on the other hand rejected the 19th century notion of progress, and instead called attention to the Darwinian notion of "adaptation", arguing that all societies had to adapt to their environment in some way.
The anthropologists Marshall Sahlins and Elman Service wrote a book, Evolution and Culture, in which they attempted to synthesize White's and Steward's approaches. Other anthropologists, building on or responding to work by White and Steward, developed theories of cultural ecology and ecological anthropology. The most prominent examples are Peter Vayda and Roy Rappaport. By the late 1950s, students of Steward such as Eric Wolf and Sidney Mintz turned away from cultural ecology to Marxism, World Systems Theory, Dependency theory and Marvin Harris's cultural materialism.
Today most anthropologists continue to reject 19th century notions of progress and the three original assumptions of unilineal evolution. Following Steward, they take seriously the relationship between a culture and its environment in attempts to explain different aspects of a culture. But most modern cultural anthropologists have adopted a general systems approach, examining cultures as emergent systems and argue that one must consider the whole social environment, which includes political and economic relations among cultures. There are still others who continue to reject the entirety of the evolutionary thinking and look instead at historical contingencies, contacts with other cultures, and the operation of cultural symbol systems. As a result, the simplistic notion of 'cultural evolution' has grown less useful and given way to an entire series of more nuanced approaches to the relationship of culture and environment. In the area of development studies, authors such as Amartya Sen have developed an understanding of 'development' and 'human flourishing' that also question more simplistic notions of progress, while retaining much of their original inspiration.Neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism as a social theory attempts to explain the evolution of societies by drawing on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution while discarding some dogmas of the previous theories of social evolutionism. Neoevolutionism is concerned with long-term, directional, evolutionary social change and with the regular patterns of development that may be seen in unrelated, widely-separated cultures.Sociological neoevolutionism emerged in the 1930s. It developed extensively in the period after the Second World War—and was incorporated into anthropology as well as into sociology in the 1960s.
Neoevolutionary theories are based on empirical evidence from fields such as archaeology, paleontology, and historiography. Proponents say neoevolutionism is objective and simply descriptive, eliminating any references to a moral or cultural system of values.
While the 19th-century cultural evolutionism explained how culture develops by describing general principles of its evolutionary process, it was dismissed by historical particularism as unscientific in the early 20th century. Neoevolutionary thinkers brought back evolutionary ideas and developed them, with the result that they became acceptable to contemporary anthropology.
Neoevolutionism discards many ideas of classical social evolutionism, notably the emphasis on social progress, so dominant in previous sociological evolution-related theories. Neoevolutionism discards the determinism argument and introduces probability, arguing that accidents and free will have much impact on the process of social evolution. It also supports counterfactual history—asking "what if?" and considering different possible paths that social evolution may (or might) have taken, and thus allows for the fact that various cultures may develop in different ways, some skipping entire "stages" others have passed through. Neoevolutionism stresses the importance of empirical evidence. While 19th-century social evolutionism used value judgments and assumptions when interpreting data, neoevolutionism relies on measurable information for analyzing the process of cultural evolution.
Important thinkers for neoevolutionism include:
Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936). While not strictly a neoevolutionist himself, Tönnies produced work often viewed as the foundation of neo-evolutionism. He became one of the first sociologists to claim that the evolution of society is not necessarily going in the right direction, that the social progress is not perfect—it can even be called a regress as the newer, more evolved societies are obtained only after paying high costs, resulting in decreasing satisfaction of individuals making up that society.
Leslie A. White (1900–1975), author of The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome (1959). Publication of this book rekindled interest in evolution among sociologists and anthropologists. White attempted to construct a theory explaining the entire history of humanity. The most important factor in his theory is technology: Social systems are determined by technological systems, wrote White in his book, echoing the earlier theory of Lewis Henry Morgan. As a measure of societal advance he proposed measuring the energy consumption of a given society (thus his theory is known as the energy theory of cultural evolution). White introduced a formula: C=E*T, where E is a measure of energy consumed, and T is the measure of efficiency of technical factors utilising the energy. This theory resembles the later theory of the Kardashev scale proposed in the 1960s by the Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev (1932–). White differentiates five stages of human development:
In the first, people use energy of their own muscles.
In the second, they use energy of domesticated animals.
In the third, they use the energy of plants (White refers to the agricultural revolution here).
In the fourth, they learn to use the energy of natural resources: coal, oil, gas.
In the fifth, they harness nuclear energy.
Julian Steward (1902–1972), author of Theory of Culture Change: The Methodology of Multilinear Evolution (1955, reprinted 1979), developed the theory of "multilinear" evolution which examined the way in which societies adapted to their environment—a more nuanced approach than White's theory of "unilinear evolution". He questioned the possibility of forming a single social theory encompassing the entire evolution of humanity, however he argued that anthropologists are not limited to descriptions of specific, existing cultures. He believed it possible to develop theories analysing typical, common culture, representative of specific eras or regions. As the decisive factors determining the development of given culture he pointed to technology and economics, and noted secondary factors such as like political systems, ideologies and religion. All those factors push the evolution of a given society in several directions at the same time, hence the multilinearity of his theory of evolution.
Marshall Sahlins (1930–), author of Evolution and Culture (1960). He divided the evolution of societies into "general" and "specific" evolution, seeing general evolution as the tendency of cultural and social systems to increase in complexity, organisation and adaptiveness to their environment. However, as the various cultures are not isolated, there is interaction and a diffusion of their qualities. This leads cultures to deviate from the general evolution and develop in their specific, unique ways (specific evolution).
Gerhard Lenski (1924–2015). In his Power and Prestige (1966) and Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology (1974), Lenski expands on the works of Leslie White and of Lewis Henry Morgan. He views technological progress as the most basic factor in the evolution of societies and cultures. Unlike White, who defined technology as the ability to create and utilise energy, Lenski focuses on information—its amount and uses. The more information and knowledge (especially allowing the shaping of natural environments) a given society has, the more advanced it is. He distinguished four stages of human development, based on the advances in the history of communication. In the first stage, information is passed by genes. In the second, when humans gain sentience, they can learn and pass information on by experience. In the third, humans start using signs and develop logic. In the fourth, they can invent symbols, and develop language and writing. Advances in the technology of communication translate into advances in the economic and political systems, the distribution of goods, social inequality and other spheres of social life. He also differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication and economy:
hunters and gatherers
special (like fishing societies)
Talcott Parsons (1902–1979), author of Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives (1966) and The System of Modern Societies (1971) divided evolution into four subprocesses:
division, which creates functional subsystems from the main system
adaptation, where those systems evolve into more efficient versions
inclusion of elements previously excluded from the given systems
generalization of values, increasing the legitimization of the ever more complex system. Parsons shows those processes on three stages of evolution:primitive
modern.Archaic societies have the knowledge of writing, while modern ones have the knowledge of law. Parsons viewed Western civilisation as the pinnacle of modern societies, and out of all western cultures he declared the United States the most dynamic developed one.
Thomas G. Harding
Elman Service (1915–1996)
Darcy Ribeiro (1922–1997)
S.N. Eisenstadt (1923–2010)Russell L. Mixter
Russell L. Mixter (August 7, 1906 – January 16, 2007) was an American scientist, noted for leading the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) away from anti-evolutionism, and for his advocacy of progressive creationism.Social cycle theory
Social cycle theories are among the earliest social theories in sociology. Unlike the theory of social evolutionism, which views the evolution of society and human history as progressing in some new, unique direction(s), sociological cycle theory argues that events and stages of society and history generally repeat themselves in cycles. Such a theory does not necessarily imply that there cannot be any social progress. In the early theory of Sima Qian and the more recent theories of long-term ("secular") political-demographic cycles as well as in the Varnic theory of P.R. Sarkar an explicit accounting is made of social progress.Sociocultural evolution
Sociocultural evolution, sociocultural evolutionism or cultural evolution are theories of cultural and social evolution that describe how cultures and societies change over time. Whereas sociocultural development traces processes that tend to increase the complexity of a society or culture, sociocultural evolution also considers process that can lead to decreases in complexity (degeneration) or that can produce variation or proliferation without any seemingly significant changes in complexity (cladogenesis). Sociocultural evolution is "the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form".Most of the 19th-century and some 20th-century approaches to socioculture aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a whole, arguing that different societies have reached different stages of social development. The most comprehensive attempt to develop a general theory of social evolution centering on the development of sociocultural systems, the work of Talcott Parsons (1902–1979), operated on a scale which included a theory of world history. Another attempt, on a less systematic scale, originated with the world-systems approach from the 1970s.
More recent approaches focus on changes specific to individual societies and reject the idea that cultures differ primarily according to how far each one is on some linear scale of social progress. Most modern archaeologists and cultural anthropologists work within the frameworks of neoevolutionism, sociobiology, and modernization theory.
Many different societies have existed in the course of human history, with estimates as high as a total of over one million separate societies; however, as of 2013, the number of current, distinct societies had been estimated as only about two hundred.St. George Jackson Mivart
St. George Jackson Mivart (30 November 1827 – 1 April 1900) was an English biologist. He is famous for starting as an ardent believer in natural selection who later became one of its fiercest critics. Mivart attempted to reconcile Darwin's theory of evolution with the beliefs of the Catholic Church, and finished by being condemned by both parties. His opposition to the central role of natural selection, his idea that the soul is created by God and that evolutionism is not unattainable with the idea of God brought him in contrast with other evolutionist scientists. His theological theories on hell and on the compatibility between science and Catholicism led him to clash with the Catholic Church but "...the cause of Mivart’s problems was not his advocacy of evolutionism."The Creationists
The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design is a history of the origins of anti-evolutionism by Ronald Numbers. First published in 1992 as The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism, a revised and expanded edition was published under the current title in 2006.
The book has been described as "probably the most definitive history of anti-evolutionism". It has received generally favorable reviews from both the academic and the religious community.The Fundamentals
The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth (generally referred to simply as The Fundamentals) is a set of ninety essays published between 1910 and 1915 by the Testimony Publishing Company of Chicago. It was initially published quarterly in twelve volumes, then republished in 1917 by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles as a four-volume set. Baker Books reprinted all four volumes under two covers in 2003.
According to its foreword, the publication was designed to be "a new statement of the fundamentals of Christianity." However, its contents reflect a concern with certain theological innovations related to liberal Christianity, especially biblical higher criticism. It is widely considered to be the foundation of modern Christian fundamentalism.
The project was initially conceived in 1909 by California businessman Lyman Stewart, the founder of Union Oil and a devout Presbyterian and dispensationalist. He and his brother Milton anonymously provided funds for composing, printing, and distributing the publication. The project had three successive editors: A. C. Dixon, Louis Meyer, and Reuben Archer Torrey. The essays were written by sixty-four different authors, representing most of the major Protestant Christian denominations. It was mailed free of charge to ministers, missionaries, professors of theology, YMCA and YWCA secretaries, Sunday school superintendents, and other Protestant religious workers in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Over three million volumes (250,000 sets) were sent out.The volumes defended orthodox Protestant beliefs and attacked higher criticism, liberal theology, Roman Catholicism (called Romanism by many Protestants of the time), socialism, modernism, atheism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Millennial Dawn (whose members were sometimes known as Russellites, but which later adopted the name Jehovah's Witnesses), spiritualism, and evolutionism.Theistic evolution
Theistic evolution, theistic evolutionism, evolutionary creationism or God-guided evolution are views that regard religious teachings about God as compatible with modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution is not in itself a scientific theory, but a range of views about how the science of general evolution relates to religious beliefs in contrast to special creation views.
Supporters of theistic evolution generally harmonize evolutionary thought with belief in God, rejecting the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science – they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not contradict each other.Unilineal evolution
Unilineal evolution, also referred to as classical social evolution, is a 19th-century social theory about the evolution of societies and cultures. It was composed of many competing theories by various anthropologists and sociologists, who believed that Western culture is the contemporary pinnacle of social evolution. Different social status is aligned in a single line that moves from most primitive to most civilized. This theory is now generally considered obsolete in academic circles.